Coast Guard Investigates High-Profile Yacht Rescue
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the circumstances behind the rescue of two women and two dogs from a 50-foot sailboat in the Western Pacific last week. The sailors, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, say that their vessel was damaged in a severe, three-day storm during a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti. However, satellite imagery from the time period in question shows no evidence of organized storm systems in the area.
In addition, the two women had an EPIRB on board but had not activated it because "they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” according to Coast Guard spokeswoman PO2 Tara Molle. While Appel said in an interview that “you do not use your EPIRB unless you are in imminent danger,” the women had also told their rescuers that they had been attempting to signal passing ships for 98 days.
Appel, an actress with several supporting credits, told CNN that the boat's antenna had been damaged in the storm, rendering VHF communications nearly impossible. She credited the Navy with her survival. "Had they not been able to locate us, we would have been dead within 24 hours," Appel said in an interview after her rescue. "I'm grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief.”
The AP noted several ways in which the women's account of their ordeal had changed or appeared to differ from the course of events – including their initial rescue by a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Fong Chun 66. Its captain said that he had taken the sailboat in tow, but the women had asked to be cut loose the following day. Appel later said that the Fong Chun 66 had collided with and badly damaged the sailboat during the tow.